There are pockets of zen to be found all over Vegas – from the tranquil rooms of the Canyon Ranch Spa inside the grand Venetian, to Red Rock Canyon’s Black Corridor, where climbers crag to seek refuge from the scorching desert sun. But perhaps the best kept secret of Vegas is Mount Charleston, a sanctuary located just 35 miles northwest of Sin City.
At 11,916 feet, Mount Charleston is the highest of the Spring Mountains of Southern Nevada. The sometimes snow-capped mountains offer year-round outdoor activities, from hiking to climbing to skiing (yes, even skiing!).
So when Andy Reger of Red Rock Climbing Center offered to take me climbing in Vegas’ hidden oasis. I leaped at the opportunity.
Andy and I first met in Vegas last year, when I’d hired him as a guide through Red Rock Climbing Center for a half-day climbing session in Red Rocks. A Vegas veteran, he’s traveled through the wilds of Namibia to New Zealand, and ticked off climbs throughout the Vegas area- sometimes referred to as the epicenter of North America’s hardest climbing. Mount Charleston is where Chris Sharma sharpened his teeth on his first difficult problem, and nearby Mount Clark is where Sharma sent Jumbo Love, a 5.15b and one of the toughest climbs in the world.
Andy and I agreed to a late start and a mellow day (I’d just sprained my wrist a few days prior). He picked me up around 9am from the Mandalay Bay, and we were on our way. One of the key benefits of climbing with Red Rock Climbing Center is that they are a local outfitter that specialize in customized guiding around the area. They know the routes and beta best.
Since my wrist sprain prevented me from climbing, we’d decided to hike around Mount Charleston instead, so that I could really get a lay of the land. As we drove down the Nevada Scenic Byway from Kyle Canyon through Lee Canyon, we passed through five different ecosystems. We’d traveled from desert to mountain in less than an hour, as Andy gave me a brief history of the mountain, its flora and geology. Mount Charleston is made up of limestone that had been under the sea at some point in time, and dotted with Bristlecone Pine Trees, which are the oldest known organisms of any species.
Mount Charleston offers miles of hikes and amazing scenery. The best way to see the mountain is with a local like Andy, but here are some trails to get you started:
-Mary Jane Falls, a 3.5 mile hike
-Bonanza Trail, a strenuous, 5-mile hike that starts at the Bonanza Trailhead above Cold Creek
Make sure to grab a bite to eat the Mount Charleston lodge afterwards, and celebrate a day or cragging or hiking with a hearty main and cold one, (I opted for a delicious salmon plate with steamed veggies and a mimosa, yum!).